State Minister in the Education, Youth and Information Ministry, Floyd Green, says the standards set by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) for the sector have to be very high.
“We are dealing with the most vulnerable of our society, children who need care and protection, so we have to set the standards high. Countries come to Jamaica to model our standards,” he said.
The state minister was speaking at a certification ceremony for the St. Margaret’s Bay Basic School in Portland, at the school on January 26.
The school has been certified by the ECC for having attained 100 per cent of the Commission’s 12 standards.
Green welcomed the school’s certification, arguing that those schools which have already been certified feel and look different.
The certification process requires early childhood institutions (ECIs) to satisfy the criteria under the ECC’s standards, which relate to health and safety (public health and fire safety reports and police records); and educational quality, including teacher qualification certificates. They must also pass a stringent inspection process.
St. Margaret’s, which has been in operation for the past 61 years, is the first school to be certified in Region Two, which includes Portland, and has over 89 ECIs.
Already, approximately 27 out of 2,500 ECIs have been certified by the ECC.
The state minister said that parents and community members must play their part in helping ECIs to become certified.
He called on non-governmental organisations to “adopt a school or cluster of schools” in a similar manner to the help which One Jamaica Foundation offered to
St. Margaret’s to get certified.
One Jamaica Foundation is spearheaded by Ann-Marie Vaz, the wife of minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and member of parliament for West Portland, Daryl Vaz.
Meanwhile, Green reiterated that there will be a realignment in the Education, Youth and Information budget for this 2017/2018 fiscal year, which will target primary schools and ECIs.
“We’re going to be increasing the grants that we give to our primary schools significantly,” he said.
In her address, Vaz said her organisation collaborated with the ECC to ensure that St Margaret’s was certified.
“When schools are certified, it means that all children across the island will get the opportunity to start from a level playing field. We want to give all children the same opportunity,” she said.
For her part, acting executive director of the ECC, Karlene Degrasse-Deslandes, said that the agency is working to get 100 ECIs certified.
She said it is important for ECIs to be certified to ensure that children get what is necessary for their holistic development.
Principal Marcia Barnes expressed gratitude for the help in getting the school certified.